The explosion of globalization has, in recent years, transformed the way we communicate, engage in business, and think about our roles in society. We no longer exist in a world where we live and operate independent of one another. As such, understanding society from a global perspective has never been more important. This is particularly relevant to the ways we educate our youths — a notion that inspired IVY Member Isabella Martinez to start NetWings Corp, a cross-cultural exchange non-profit that harnesses the educational benefits of travel to engage individuals via non-traditional learning environments.
NetWings Corp provides early global exposure platforms for high school and college students. The students interact with the world via prestigious conference opportunities while developing social competencies in various countries around the world, including Germany and Argentina.
IVY Magazine sat down with Isabella to learn more about her work, NetWings Corp’s impact, and her plans for the future.
What motivated you to create NetWings Corp?
IM: At a young age, I was educated in a way that always extended beyond the classroom. Summers spent in Mexico visiting my grandfather, the late Don Reuben, taught me the importance of humility in interacting with different cultures, the value of tolerance to others’ perspectives, and sparked a curiosity to hear others’ stories. At a young age, exposure to ever-developing global landscapes became my classroom.
Years later, I am intrigued by the multitude of schisms around the world that are birthed from a lack of global exposure. In what is perhaps the most connected generation of all time (via technological advancements), our continued intolerance of others’ perspectives is a prominent reminder of our lack of connectivity on certain fundamental levels.
Through cultivated cross-cultural programming, NetWings Corp revolutionizes the way youths learn beyond their local communities.
I founded NetWings Corp in 2014 with the intent to build a more knowledgeable, empathetic, and actionable individual through the connective power of exposure. Through cultivated cross-cultural programming, it revolutionizes the way youths learn beyond their local communities. Unlike typical study abroad programs, NetWings Corp students participate in our program with a specific purpose to build international networks, understand local policies, and actively delve into current global issues. One of my favorite parts of our programming is our focus on the case study method to best engage students in building their own perspective around economic, social, and political arenas, and contextualizing this in creating their own cases.
My ultimate motivation behind NetWings Corp is to break down barriers of limited exposure by building bridges toward social cohesion within communities around the world.
What types of opportunities do NetWings Corp students engage in?
IM: The NetWings Corp program can be broken down into three stages: mentoring, international conference travel, and case studies.
During the mentorship phase, students are placed into JetSetNetworks three months prior to their international trip. Cohorts interact with one another and participate in NetWings Corp socratic seminars to receive basic preparation for their travels. Students are assigned international mentors who they work with throughout the process.
The second stage is when students travel internationally with the NetWings Corp team for a week which includes Case Study Research, a Service Learning Project, and international conference participation.
The Case Study Research component consists of students participating in different field trips with political, business, and non-profit leaders involved in their given Case Study topic. This serves as the basis for research to be turned into the writing of their case studies at a later date.
During the conference component, from the workshops and panels to the intermission breaks, our cohorts engage in high-profile networking. Meeting over 300 students, young professionals, and C-Suite international executives from around the world, our students begin to make new friends, mentors, and networks.
In each cohort program, NetWings Corp engage students in a community service project which is weaved into the service learning component of our case studies.
Last but not least, when students return, they reflect on their experience by developing case studies. These cases are later used as students teach in their local communities and spur awareness about the topics their cases cover.
What are some of the immediate and long-term benefits that NetWings Corp students have during and after study abroad?
IM: Students emerge from NetWings Corp with an increased knowledge base across a fortitude of arenas, an increased appetite to actively engage in current global issues with newly cultivated networks, and, most importantly, an increased responsibility to apply what they have learned within their communities upon return from their travels as compassionate and aware global citizens.
This exposure provides students an in-depth understanding of what is going on around the world and helps them to personalize topics that they might otherwise only learn about in a class or on social media. This personalization empowers students to not only understand but engage as global citizens in a way that transcends their limited classroom exposure.
Overall, the soft skills that travel builds are prolific. To travel requires adaptability, flexibility, planning, and communication: a plethora of life skills. It is not until you find yourself lost in a foreign country; bargaining prices at an open air market; genuinely listening to stories of local people; or eating something completely out of your comfort zone that you build a foundation for a more aware individual. This stays with you in all aspects of life: how you approach personal matters, professional interactions — the whole nine yards! The best part is, because you are learning these lessons in different environments, you don’t realize the applicability until you see it come to life.
What are some memorable moments since starting NetWings Corp?
IM: The most memorable part of NetWings Corp, for me, is reflecting on each trip upon coming back to the states. Each time, I am reminded of the people from all walks of life and corners of the globe supporting us. It truly takes a village.
A particular memory that I will always take with me was our meeting with Basheer, a Syrian refugee who shared his story with us of his difficult journey to Germany. We met Basheer during our time in Cologne, Germany in 2016 and have since remained in contact with him. In doing so, we learned that since our visit, he has been accepted to university in Germany to study education policy, he has passed his German language exam, and he has now been reunited with his family. He hopes to use this as a way to impact education in a manner similar to the NetWings Corp program. As we prepare for our next trip to Cologne in March 2017, we are excited to meet with him again!
The prevalence of immigration policy is a topic that has stirred nations around the world, especially this year, from the UK to Germany to the United States. Having the opportunity to construct my own perspective through meeting individuals like Basheer afforded me a very personal perspective that I could have never developed through social media or a newspaper.
What skills have found most useful in starting your own organization?
IM: Recruiting talent! Having a great idea means nothing if you are not working with a team of individuals that share your passion and mission for the organization. On the same token, sole passion is not enough. A successful organization requires hard skill sets to keep its administrative infrastructures intact and to build sustainable impact.
What can the IVY community do to support you?
IM: The IVY community has been a great support system in further helping create awareness for our cause. Our DC Chapter helped us ring in our first fundraising dinner, which helped us send four of our students to Germany. How can IVY help even further? Visit our website at www.netwingsnetwork.com and learn about what might be the best fit for your involvement in NetWings Corp! Make an investment in our youths by sponsoring a student’s trip, becoming a Corporate Sponsor, or speaking at one of our global conferences. We have also launched our new “Young Professional Board” initiative to recruit NetWings Corp Board Members, who have the option of traveling with us internationally and experiencing our work firsthand.